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Editor's Note: Got Grid?

May 27, 2003, 19:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Grid computing is one of those hype words that flies across my desk every couple of days. Grid computing, it seems, will fix all of a corporation's problems--if you believe all the hype.

Hype or no, there is a very strong push towards moving to grid computing these days, because it has two big elements that make it very attractive to IT managers: it runs on open-standard and open-source platforms and it is more scalable than any other IT platform you can think of.

This is what I personally find so appealing about grid computing: you can take a problem, say some huge computational algorithm that would normally take a standard server umpteen billion years to solve, throw it into a grid computing system, and have the algorithm solved in months, or even weeks. If you need more processing "oomph," just add more computers to the grid.

I am grossly over-simplifying the process, of course, since grid computing does involve a lot more than hooking some computers together and let them have at some poor, defenseless data and algorithms. Grid application development, hardware configuration, and data management are all skills that need to be learned in order to make a truly efficient grid. But more and more companies are throwing their weight behind these skill sets and are prepared to deliver very powerful grid applications and platforms that will very cheaply bring the power of a supercomputer to your organization.

IBM is one of those companies leading the push to grid computing. At next week's Enterprise Linux Forum, they plan to demonstate how these efforts can help companies maximize their computational power.

IBM has gotten behind open standards-based technologies such as Linux, XML-based Web services, and the Open Grid Services Architecture to deliver what they describe as on-demand computing. The on-demand reference is a strong indicator of the scaability I mentioned. Their strategy is to apply grid computing on demand, all based on open standards architectures. This lets their customers remain responsive to new challenges and opportunities, focus on core competencies, and employ new variable cost structures.

So, if a business needs major computing power for a limited amount of time, then they get it. When the need is finished, they can scale down what they have and not be stuck with more computing platforms (and more costs and more administration and more headaches...) than they need.

IBM won't be the only company at the Enterprise Linux Forum pushing grid technology. Oracle will also be there, demonstrating their approach to grid computing, which enables enterprise computing on commodity clusters and provides the grid concepts of what Oracle refers to as "Virtualization and Provisioning."

In their session, Oracle will present how organizations can utilize Oracle9i Grid technology for high-availability clustering on Linux, which is the other aspect of grid computing beyond the high-performance side usually touted in the media. Oracle also plans to show how IT strategists can design their IT infrastructure to add hardware as needed without disrupting services.

If you're looking for a more hands-on, technical look at implementing grid computing, you might want to visit the pre-conference workshop on June 4, where Ahmar Abbas of Grid Technology Partners and Chris Smith of Platform Computing plan to host a two-hour workshop on Grid Computing in Linux Environments.

Among the topics to be covered in this workshop are the introduction of concepts of grid computing, including an examination of some existing grid technologies (Platform MultiCluster and the Globus Toolkit), discussions of what types of applications are amenable to execution on the grid, and an example of the phases of a Grid deployment within an enterprise.

The Enterprise Linux Forum will be held from June 5-6 at the Santa Clara (California) Convention Center, with a pre-show workshop day taking place on June 4. For more information on the conference and to register online, please visit the Forum Web site.